Dr. Arkeria S. Wright – CEO of U Source Me & Founder of Greater Giving Ministries – a non-profit company. She is also the COO Cook Me Up a Notch a company owned by her children Ashalah Michelle & Amari Lee. Dr. Arkeria has earned a Doctorate of Education K-12. She has taught in urban low-income communities where she was raised. She considers herself an intervention specialist. However, she is much more than that, she is an innovator and thought leader. She teaches S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering & math) through individual’s gifting.
She teaches entrepreneurship helping children discover their gifts and talents and applying pragmatic studies to this. The biggest challenge is teaching this to children who are homeless with no place to study, no access to computers, no food to eat taking an entire shift to meeting children’s basic needs then teaching them what they need to learn to break the cycle of poverty and struggle.
Dr. Arkeria is a genius! Through teaching entrepreneurship, her young children have applied her lessons to their lives and at age 12 they are youngpreneurs with an established business and huge dreams for a sustainable future. Her goal, to create 1000’s of youth entrepreneurs through practical S.T.E.M. principals and get most of the children to college and beyond.
Hello and welcome back to the Dr. Nilda Business Foresight Show. Today I have with me my co-host Rachel Calderon and a very special guest. I have Dr. Arkeria Wright. She is the CEO of U Source Me and the founder of Greater Giving Ministries which is a nonprofit company. She is a doctor of education K-12. She’s an intervention specialist. Wait til’ you hear what she’s done with her degree, it’s amazing. She has also been gifted with being the COO of Cook Me Up a Notch. Her daughter was here a couple of weeks ago, Ashalah Michelle and Amari Lee. She is the COO of their company. I don’t know how you do it all. You amaze me. I do a lot. I have no idea how you are running three companies very successfully. You’re very involved in your children’s company but the beauty is that they’re also very involved in yours. How did this all start?
Oh, my well my daughter actually started the business on her own. But before she became her own CEO of her business I ran a nonprofit. I started this nonprofit through the school system. I was a second-grade teacher at the time and I taught in the community in which I grew up. Which was just south of Atlanta and over by the Georgia Dome. I taught school over there and the majority of our students 50% of our kids were homeless. Majority of them were going without food over the weekend because their last meal would be Friday’s free lunch. I was noticing that a lot of them would have a hard time leaving school on Friday. So, I started to do a little bit more investigating and found out the majority of my kids wouldn’t eat again until Monday morning for breakfast.
And this is in the United States?
Oh yeah. I mean when you go into some of the schools they’re impoverished speaking neighborhoods. Majority of the minorities in Atlanta who’s at these public schools are not getting the resources. I remember my last year teaching for the school district they had closed down about seven schools. They were busting all of those kids between two schools. Those kids were coming from other areas. But not only did they buss them in our area but they had closed down the apartment of one of our housing communities in that same area. So, a lot of those kids were homeless. They were staying with people just to be able to go to that school in that district. A lot of the kids that were in other districts that had to be bussed, I mean not other districts I’m sorry, other schools that were closed they had to be bussed over. Well, transportation was the issue so, they had to find means of a shelter or a friend or family member to live with just to be able to get to school every day. We had a high rate of homelessness. We had a high rate of hunger and the issue that I had with teaching is that you cannot teach your child on an empty stomach. You cannot teach your child when there are so many external factors going on that affects them concentrating because they’re worried about lights. They’re worried about food. They’re worried about being able to not be bullied or talked about because they smell bad because they don’t have water at home. The great thing about what Dr. Blackshear started at our school, in particular, is that we were very compassionate. We were very resourceful and it came to the kids. We provided clothes we had a clothes closet. We had teachers that will go out of their way to make sure their students were okay and had what they needed. So, within my classroom, I started a pantry in my art closet. I would provide none perishable things. We had the tuna kits and we would do peanut butter sandwiches. We would do different things just to teach them if they didn’t have lights or if it was no gas then they could still eat certain things. We had granola bars and things of that nature. On Fridays, we would do peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I would wrap them so that they could have them. Then we had some volunteers from Buckhead Church. They would come to mentor our kids at the school. My personal mentors, they saw what I was doing and they wanted to help more. So, we began to send groceries home. We got partners like Publix and different places like that and the kids would go home with bags of groceries for the weeks they were out for longer. So, Thanksgiving break, Christmas break we would have I mean we even did it where I sent home underwear with the kids. So, they would get socks, t-shirts, skull caps and gloves for the winter because those things were necessary.
The thing that amazes me is that this is in America. We’re not talking about a third world. We’re not talking about you think the Dominican Republic and Haiti, of course, this happens. But, you don’t realize that that’s right here in this country among us.
It’s right next door. We were doing that for three years within the school. I’m no longer in the classroom. That’s when I started U Source Me.
So, what are you doing now?
Once I left the classroom I was in school. I was working on my doctorate. A year later I received the doctorate. But in the process, Greater Giving became a registered non-profit so we began to go more out into the communities to see what the need was. How could we service these kids and also help the parents to continue to do the things they needed to do? So, the kids weren’t getting what they needed. U Source Me is my business that I started. It’s a teacher and student service where I focus more on interventions for kids. When I was in the classroom a lot of times there’s a lot of politics in the classes. A lot of things that you can’t address socially. For me, it was most difficult. My gift lies in understanding the needs of kids. I can sit with the kid and observe a kid and understand ok this child’s gift lies here. So, this is what I need to do in order to get this child to learn this material. We need to build confidence. We need to help this child understand they’re safe. We need to deal with other things like learning styles. When you address the learning styles you can pretty much teach your child where they are. I never liked the fact that in the classroom they didn’t understand that it’s a certain thing as teaching within that zone of proximal development. Kids were so frustrated. I couldn’t handle being able to say or intervene and say this child this won’t work fine for her. I need to be able to do it another way you need to give me permission to do it another way instead of saying teach this standard. Teach it this cryptic way this is how it needs to be done. And the child fails.
Not because they’re dumb but it’s just they couldn’t grasp that learning method.
Right they could not. I am personally a visual learner and I’m also a hands-on learner. That’s the reason Bakeology works. I’m a kinesthetic. I have to first see and I have to then do. Then I can tell you I have it. Before then I don’t have it. A lot of our kids they aren’t the same you have to experience the best teacher you have to allow them to get in it. They have to be hands-on with it. They have to have experience with it and that’s why entrepreneurship goes hand-in-hand with U Source Me. The way that we develop Chef Ashalah and Chef Amari and a couple of the other kids that we work with they have businesses now. They are able to use the gifts that they are passionate about and get hands-on with it. Experience with it. Learn STEAM through it and then they grasp the concepts in school. Shalah is taking honor classes. You infuse the things that they are going to use every single day with the concepts that you teach in school and it gives them the application they need to connect the two.
I’m an auditory learner and a hands-on learner but I appreciate your cause of the fact that this is something that America needs to understand. We as parents and even the education system needs to understand that we shouldn’t limit our children. Our children really have the ability to learn and not be fluent in this one and weak in this category. If we teach them the right way we have the capability of having 100% of our students in America doing excellent. There’s no reason not any one child, I don’t care whether they are a special-needs child or a child that’s high- functioning normal without any disabilities. Everyone has the capability of learning. Everyone has the capability of doing 100%. We just have to kind of tweak and I think that the education system kind of refuses. I don’t know if they refuse or if there was one person who decided and they have not had the experiences that we’ve all had but it’s like they’re not budging. It’s like this is one cookie cutter and everyone needs to go that direction.
Somewhat psychology has to continue to be present in education. You can’t just separate the two. You have to understand behaviors. You have to understand the mind. You have to understand what it is that triggers a certain motivation in a person or a child. I think sometimes they miss that because they want everyone to be this one way. I want this perfect student that can come in take, this textbook and can remember everything in it, they can ace the tests, and they can score high.
They’re not giving them the tools to do it. They were all capable of doing it but they don’t give them the tools. They don’t do it.
Allow teachers to teach.
Whatever it is by whatever means just give them what they need so that they will be able to teach. You’re holding their hands and tying their hands by not allowing them to be able to pull from that child what they can. So, for me, as a foresight strategist, one of the things that I struggle with, and this is with adults because they’ve had the same learning method all of their lives, they’re not accustomed to creating. They’re not accustomed to innovating. They’re not accustomed to using their right-brain. Everything has to be a certain method and if they don’t fit into that then they feel they’re dumb. They feel very incapable. They stop trying and that’s it they’re not going to get very far.
Because we have been trained that way.
Because we have. That comes, with all due respect, it comes from the school system that is teaching them only one way. If they can’t fit into that box they’re really cast away. They’re thrown away and they’re not seen as valuable. So, now fast forward I’m talking to entrepreneurs. I’m trying to get them to think creatively and innovative and they’re still stuck with, “Oh, I can’t do that” and that’s because they’ve never been given the tools to be able to do that. They’ve not been given the tools to be able to create, innovate and think outside of the box. But, they use the term a lot think outside of the box but, nobody actually tells us what that is.
It is so funny. I use that term. I’m learning through the process with my kids how to step outside of that fear that everything doesn’t have to be a textbook way of doing everything. Even with my kids. I’ve learned that going through school I was always this straight-a student. I mean everything from making sure I got all A’s to participating in all the honors clubs suit and all of that. I feel like I just kept going okay they said go to school if I graduate go to college and I went all the way up to get my doctorate degree. But, I got there and it was like I hit a ceiling but I knew it was more because my other side of my brain was saying you are creative. You can do this. This is what is God giving you, all these visions, all these things that can be done artistically just to be able to step out of the box. But, I kept saying but what do I do with this doctorate? like it has to be a textbook way of getting beyond this ceiling. But the only way is that I had to what?
Create. It was nobody to show me. It was no nothing written like when you get here this is where you go. Not only that, it didn’t feel good to say let me go be a principal or I’m going to, what other people do with doctorates in education?
Teach. You go teach you’re going to create more people like you. We’re all stuck in the box right and after a while that box gets pretty uncomfortable.
And it’s not enough security in a box anymore. You’re not secure as a teacher anymore. I’ve seen so many of my peers drop off, like wonderful amazing teachers and they just throw them away and do away with them. Most of them they either go teach abroad or they started their own businesses.
Because the thing is that as an educator I teach business and I also teach foresight. The problem that I have with the students is that they’ll ask me questions like the syllabus didn’t tell me what page to find this in. This is like masters’ level this is graduate school. The syllabus did not tell me what page that information was in. I was like how about research? How about looking? Finding it for yourself. This is what you need to do when you’re no longer in school. You’re going to be given a task you need to figure it out. But we’re not programmed that way and this is where the frustration comes in. I had a friend tell me Dr. Wright a few years ago. I really love your confidence. I had to stop and say you know what I’m not necessarily confident going in. I just do it scared. I do it anyway and after I succeed or after I fail I figure out what I did wrong. Then I’m like okay I’ve got this. That’s when the confidence comes in.
We need more of those transparent conversations because even with teaching a lot of the kids that go towards business, things, dreams that they have we have to show them that even as adults we’re scared. We have some fear that purges us or pushes us forward. To say you do it even in the fear. I mean honestly, you may even be your best self when you’re most nervous or your most afraid because you put everything you got in it because you’re so afraid of screwing up. So, a lot of times they don’t know that with confidence it’s kind of like a practice. You have to practice every single day to be more confident and I wasn’t taught that.
Your mission needs to be bigger than you. It’s more important to me that I get people to teach them foresight strategies. That I’m able to teach them how to be strategic, how to address their business, their careers and everything that they do with a strategy. But, a well-informed strategy. That to me is bigger. Not getting that information now is more than my fear because then I have to kind of balance, am I more afraid of not doing it and not getting the information out? Or, am I more afraid that they don’t get this information?
Many of us don’t learn that. Many of us don’t learn that to put forth I guess our purpose or what we’re doing it for make that greater than what did you say?
Make it greater than your fear.
Than the fear?
Right! Greater than your fear not to. So, it’s a balancing act. If you are afraid that they not have this information and they’ll never get it and you’re afraid of giving them the information. There has to be more power in their getting that information. That’s been what has been purposeful for me. So, my purpose is larger than my fear.
Often times I have found that even from young from home we kind of start it’s that word like no you can’t. You can’t do this. You can’t do that. It’s good because sometimes you want to protect your children to say no you can’t because sometimes it’s our own fear that holds us back. I remember one time I was like I wanted to do something and my mom was like no you can’t do that you’re a girl. Now I’m looking at it and I’m like why couldn’t I do that? I mean just because I’m a girl why would you stereotype that? She’s a great mother don’t get me wrong. But, I’m saying sometimes even our own theorems of oh my gosh you know my child is going to get hurt. Let them get hurt. Let them wipe their knees and get up and do it again. We start doing that from young and I think it just has to do with our own feelings. Sometimes we’re afraid to allow them to kind of get hurt. When we don’t do that we don’t realize it, and I think that this is to everyone parents and non-parents, we need to realize that all these little things our words really carry a whole lot of weight. To the point that a lot of us adults have struggles and our struggles are can I do that? Should I do that? What are the possibilities? How about if they start looking at me funny? How about if I’m cutting a video and they’re making fun of me? Who cares what they say because you know what? The greatest people have done so much more through making funny videos or who cares. But, we’re so afraid of being talked about or what are they going to think so we enclose our own mind. It starts unfortunately even younger than school and it’s these little words that I think carry a whole lot of weight. We need to instill in our children because once we give them like what can you do with that who knows what can happen. Let us begin to push our children to see what they can do. I think that that’s important.
So, from this came kidpreneur Dream Workshops. Talk to me about that.
So, the kidpreneur Dream Workshops were started when Ashayla started doing her baking classes for Cook Me Up a Notch. I decided that it was just a whole lot of parents that wanted to know how did Shayla get started. So, we developed this dream board it was kind of like a vision board project. What we would do with the kids when they came to see it so, I felt like I have opportunity to teach them something. They’re here for the baking class I’m going to throw this in There. So, we would do this board and it would basically address who they are, what’s your name and what do you believe your gift is? But, then we would address what you think your purpose is and then what do you want to be when you grow up. So, we tried to think about three different ways of explaining what we thought the three things meant. So, they would write out okay I want to own something. One little girl I want to own a gymnasium because I want to teach gymnastics. I asked her okay cool. I asked her what do you think your gift is? She said I’m gifted in gymnastics I’m a gymnast. Okay, so, what do you think your purpose is and she was like I don’t know. Well I want you to think about what the purpose is versus your gift. To me a purpose is what you share with the world. The gift is what God has given you to share with the world. So, explaining that to them gave them even more purpose to achieve that dream because just like you said before once you understand that your purpose is greater than the actual self-fear or whatever it is you achieve greater. That works with kids magnificently because you give them a foundational principle, standard or some focus to say this is the reason why I need to be what it is that I achieved to be. So, with that dream board they will outline that and then we will go over like what will be your target audience? How would you promote yourself and this that or the other? Then they would come up with like a hashtag like #billionaire or #Simone, one of the Olympic gold medalist she put all these different hashtags. And so, that kidpreneur workshop came out of that. What we’re trying to do is this next spring we want to have a huge kidpreneur workshop where we come in and we put them in groups where they’re running a business. We learned this from Junior Achievement where it’s a whole town and what they have to do have to choose which corporation they would like to work for. Just say the town has a bakery, a bank, a package store, a hospital and different things that you need to operate a town. Well they have to flip the skills, they learn throughout our workshops to use to be able to run their businesses within this town. This full workshop that we want to do and at the end they have to present how this businesses mission supported the mission of the community or supported the wealth of the community. What we’re trying to do even with bakeology when they get in their groups they have different groups so, the five components. They have science and safety. They have techno spire to code which means we’re teaching them how baking steps are relating to the same steps in coding. When you take the steps, and looping it doing all the things you would do to code a program you techno spire to code. The next one is engineering, then chemistry, then arts and then final one is math and measurement. So, they get to rotate throughout this class bakeology and they get to experiment with the flower, the chemistry and this that and the other. Just using not only a kid to show that it’s possible for kids to be entrepreneurs. But, not only doing that in the workshop but allowing them to have a hands-on experience saying look this is all it is it’s the same thing you’re learning in math, science, social studies all of that. Your research what you’re doing in social studies all that’s providing you with research so that’s the same thing you’re doing in your business. Finding out your research or engineering who makes this stuff? How does it come about? What are you using to create? So, all of those things come into play with the kidpreneur workshops. And Shayla, my daughter and the company all of us, she’s going up for a pitch in November the fourth it’s from toffee international. And she’s going for a business investment and we have our fingers crossed for it because I think it’s amazing opportunity. She’s on one of the top ten contestants. There is amazing other kidpreneurs that are also in the top ten and she has to pitch her bakeology curriculum and the STEAM baking kits. I’m saying all of that to say that we want to show kids that the same concepts that you are using in school is going to help you to progress in life sooner than most of us adults. My personal business U Source Me could have benefited so much more and still can from a place where it teaches me strategies for success because I’m literally learning these things from teaching kids. But, if you ever met a teacher we can take some information and we can teach you but to apply it to our own lives can sometimes be a little bit more difficult because we weren’t trained to operate like that. We’re afraid to operate.
What happened to me when I first took this course I was looking at it and I loved it because they told me it was the most difficult course. I was like okay there’s going to be a challenge I’ll take it. I’ll take it. I need it to challenge myself so when I’m taking the course I’m looking at that there’s a possibility to not only understand to see the future but to actually direct the future. I went to a Christian school I went to Regent University and they showed you how Christ God from the Old Testament told people the future. There was foresight. There was a strategy. Joseph had a strategy for Pharaoh and so that’s why when he had that dream he was like this is the future. This is what’s going to happen in the future. There’s going to be famine and this is a strategy to succeed. Imagine we have that in our hands. We have the ability to have that strategy. Not only do we see the future, not only could we understand the future we can actually direct it. That’s what Joseph did for Pharaoh he told him this is what’s going to happen. This is the strategy everyone’s going to come to us because we’re prepared and they aren’t. Why? Because they didn’t know. They weren’t looking. They had no idea. They just thought it was going to be a feast forever. Having that, imagine. It’s powerful.
I see myself as being a visionary. If God is showing you the end that strategy you have to find someone like you a futurist or someone to help you align the strategies to get in there. Because that for me has been the most difficult to address. Let me just put it like this when he showed me the nonprofit. He showed me how they would connect to all the other things because I never knew with the nonprofit I would then start to service kids there were in art programs. So, that way I was able to connect the art community together not only address the kids with the academic portion but we started to address their learning styles using the arts. So, here we got Shayla company in doing baking classes. We have an artist coming in doing portrait painting on canvases. We have I Am Arts doing dance sessions and they use learning music and drumming. Then they’re doing theatre and spoken word. All those things started to address the academic part and their confidence, their self-esteem and their value they started saying like oh my painting is Amazing. I can be this. I can be an artist or I can be a composer or all those things. I didn’t know that he was going to take the nonprofit and say these kids that seem to have nothing have everything on the inside.
It’s biblical. The Bible says we have the power to create wealth. Key word here being create. It’s not you have the wealth you have the power to create. We have what it takes inside of us. We are too focused on that fear. Teaching them the purpose I think is the most beautiful thing that you do for them because you’re teaching them. Once they understand their purpose I think the fear just becomes secondary that eventually it is not existing. That’s really the direction that you want to take them.
It’s an affirmation. I didn’t get enough affirming when I was younger. I got a lot of yeah you know but don’t speak, sit down and be quiet or you think you’re so smart.
In the Latino families, it’s don’t be too smart because you won’t get married.
Especially with women and girls you can’t be too much of whatever. So, to me I dumbed down a lot of things even as an adult. I wouldn’t speak this way. I wouldn’t say all the things that I did or all the things I was capable of doing. I would act as if I didn’t really know much about it because I didn’t want you to feel that I thought I knew more than you. I would just not say a lot of things that I knew I was very capable of doing. It’s weird because God has brought me back full circle. He’s allowed those same things to shine through my kids. And like you all said today oh yeah we interviewed the kids but she’s pretty amazing too and that’s weird because I’ve been doing probably what I’m doing for them now for a few years. That fear that you talk about was somewhere in their mixed in with the confidence and feeling like I needed to dumb myself down in situations where I should have spoken up. I should have let my light shine and I should have done more. I helped and I didn’t want to tell anybody. I cared or I assisted. Even as being a chair of the department my last year in the classroom a lot of times I didn’t get credit for a lot of things and I wouldn’t say that I did it. I would just say well the team did it but a lot of times people didn’t know that that leadership and that type of drive was in me.
A lot of that I know stems from fear of others that when they feel they can’t do what you’re
Doing. But if they had the confidence and the tenacity to do what you were doing as well, I think we would be a force.
We would be such a force.
The school system would be such a force if they looked at everyone’s capabilities and abilities. Between that and the kids I tell you the truth I know she’s a professor sometimes we’ll share stories and she’s like oh my gosh I’m learning from my own kids. Again, they’re not kids sorry but we’re even afraid as adults to learn from someone younger than us because again it’s that instill in us oh you don’t learn from children they don’t know. Or you don’t learn from someone younger than you and you know what sometimes they push you. I’ll ask my daughter because now everything is Instagram and Facebook so sometimes I’m like hey what do you think about this? She’s like hashtag everything oh okay what’s a hashtag? Sometimes I’m feeling like a little dumb by asking her but she’ll explain it to me and I’ll say how can I use that in our business? You’re teaching them even with today’s technology how to use things like let’s create a hashtag. What you’re really doing is they’re creating their own words of affirmation through hashtags. Then if you continue you’re also educating the parents to push. Then they see their kids and they’re like wow I could do that. You know I have my own idea that’s amazing. It’s amazing what you’ve taken from these kids that didn’t have anything and you’ve pulled that diamond out of them. They didn’t have food and you saw the need. So, you said okay no let’s see what we can get out of you. You’ve made these children into blossoming roses. I’m fascinated.
I went through a lot in my life that also motivates me to push and support them as much as I can. It’s not only a business or professional goal for me but it’s a very personal goal for me to support their dreams. I just want to encourage whomever is thinking about going into business and living your dream. One like Ashayla always says you’re never too young and you’re never too old. You can be who you want to be right now. It is important to seek out mentorship and people that you admire.
That’s amazing. I love your story honestly from beginning to end. I love your triumph. I love what you’ve done. That’s been incredible with children, with your degree, with other people’s children, and your ministries. This is just the beginning because you’re still so young your children are still babies and God really has this hand over you. Your purpose and your dream is going to exceed. The Bible says eyes have not seen, ears have not heard and mine cannot conceive the things that he has in store for you and that’s where I see you. I am so glad that we had this interview. This has been amazing today and I see what God is doing and how he’s doing it in your life. God is good and he doesn’t cease to amaze us over and over and over again.
Like she was saying you know what God has turned for you and they are your biggest fans. I wish you guys could see the other side of the camera.
These are her trophies for everything that she’s gone through these are her trophies. Aren’t they amazing. So, this is going to end this episode. I want to thank you guys for sticking with us. I know this was a little long but it was so worth it. So, we’ll see you next week with another interview and until then I want to thank you. I want you guys to follow up with Cook Me Up a Notch, Ashayla Michelle, Amari Lee, and with Dr. Wright. This is an amazing family who’s doing incredible things and I think if you follow them you’re going to see. I think a few years from now they’re going to soar. They’re so going to outgrow this. This may be global.
If you want to donate to our initiative to service kids over the holidays you can go to www.greatergivingminitries.org
Alright guys I’ll see you next week bye.